It happens in every field, to even the most optimistic and kind-hearted person — you get fucking sick of hearing about that one band. It’s pretty inevitable that press, exposure, and praise get distributed unfairly, and perhaps, quite frequently, undeservedly. But what is it that makes us call someone “overrated”? Is it the level of fawning? How bad they actually suck? The behind-the-scenes politics of a genre or an industry that seem all too obvious if you work and live inside of it?
Whatever the reason, there’s nothing that goes as well with end of the year applause as complaints about who didn’t really deserve that standing ovation. While we make it a priority to pursue kindness and even-handedness here, everyone has their breaking point, and their petty moments. So, onto the overrated albums! There were quite a few this year (in my humble opinion) but we narrowed it down to the ten most egregious offenders. Remember, oftentimes this has nothing to do with the artist themselves, but the conversation around them. Oh, and sometimes it definitely does have to do with the artist.
Harry Styles, Harry Styles
Harry Styles’ heart was in the right place. In the aftermath of the disintegration of One Direction, he could have easily hooked up with, say Max Martin or another shiny super-producer of his ilk, and produced a perfectly arranged piece of pop-puffery, guaranteed to sell in the millions. He didn’t do that. Instead, he decided to follow his classic rock-loving muse, assembled a real band, decamped to Jamaica, wrote original material and in 2017, made an actual rock record. I personally loved the move and think if he maintains this course going forward, there are some rich dividends to be gained. That being said, let’s not pretend that Harry created Rumours here or anything. The songs, especially the lead single “Sign O’ The Times” are lovely, but amount more to an exhibition of as-yet-untapped potential, than the genre-realigning masterpiece that some have tried to paint it as. Harry Styles is a good record that far too many people convinced themselves was a great one.–Corbin Reiff
LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream is not a bad album. In fact, it is a pretty good album. But when you’ve released three previous stone-cold classics, it’s hard to buy this new record getting the same sort of praise that those ones received. Where James Murphy’s prior work contained lyrics that landed like stingers and were filled with moments where the record-collecting guru could shine a light on his own musical knowledge, American Dream sounds like an album from an artist well aware that he can’t reach his own previous heights. If anything, a lot of the attention seems to come from relief that the band did not tarnish their own legacy in their return, and that their bungled breakup and reunion actually served an eventual purpose.
But the best parts of the band, the piece that tapped into the existential longing of growing into middle age and still feeling the fire of youth, it’s faded here. Never before has LCD Soundsystem sounded so workmanlike, creating songs that act more like punches on a timecard than ever. Or, maybe another way of putting it would be that it is hard to imagine anyone loving this album that didn’t already love the band. It would be nearly impossible to find meaning here if you weren’t on your hands and knees, digging desperately in the dirt for it. The fact that this is overrated at all is a testament to how great of a band they are, but there is no way that if they released another album of this quality in few years that it would get nearly the same positive reception.–Philip Cosores
Suggested underrated counterpart: Wild Pink, Wild Pink
Taylor Swift, Reputation
Kissing goodbye my chance to ever be one of the blessed few chosen to do a Taylor Swift interview is a tough thing, but not as tough as watching the mainstream music press pretend this album is even in the same realm as any of Taylor’s other albums, let alone and/or including her initial massive pop breakout, 1989. Look, I will stan for her until my dying day, even if and when I disagree with her politics (or lack thereof) or her business practices (puzzling, but lucrative), because the music is just so damn good… except, this time, it wasn’t. Personally, I respect 1989, Red and all the rest to pretend this isn’t the case. And I fucking wanted to love this record, too!